When Life Bangs At The Window
Words and image by Assistant Director Henry C Krempels
2 November, 2018
I remember a conversation very early on in this process with Jack, our director. We were on a tea break (why is it that so much theatre gets put to rights in the tea break?) and he said that there’s a version of this play he could have done, which was set in a perfectly detailed living room, where scene after scene the characters are bumping up against the walls, unable to make a decision on a man’s life. But, he said, the ideas in this are so much larger than that. He said he wants us to pull out a bit. He wants to give a sense of just how big DeLillo’s world is.
I know that sometimes I’ve been guilty of making Don DeLillo’s world small. Or rather, taking him a face value. It’s very easy to do. I’m talking, first and foremost, as a reader of his novels. And in my opinion, he’s happy for us to believe his worlds are small. Take Cosmopolis, for example, which happens to be my favourite novel of his. I have an image of DeLillo politely smiling at me as I describe back to him the simple story of a billionaire in a limousine trying to get a haircut.
But, what I have come to notice with DeLillo’s work, and what I understood Jack to be pointing to, was that Life is always just outside, banging at the window. And I’m pleased to report that the same is true for his plays.
In the first instance, it comes in the form of Alex’s son, Sean, and his ex-wife Toinette. I love watching Josie Lawrence and Jack Wilkinson playing this first scene out. The text is so malleable in their hands and often hilarious, and it’s great to watch them surprise each other with a new moment, a new look, a new inflection. Josie, as you know, is a master improviser.
The dialogue is deceptive in its simplicity but four weeks in and we’re still hearing new things. On the page, I sometimes found myself trying to keep up, and then I watched them stand it up and suddenly it’s an entirely different beast. It’s rich, funny and full of quirk.
For me, though, the one question that runs through the middle of this play is “when is someone dead?” which I’ll try and come to in another part of this blog. But, I can tell you now, I’m not going to take that question at face value.
To be continued…
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